Although Burundi still faces many obstacles to creating lasting peace from an ethnically charged war that killed 300,000 since 1993, it reached a milestone with the democratic election of a new president last Friday.

 

The monitoring commission, which held its last meeting on Monday, was charged with ensuring that the tiny central African nation's interim government followed the steps of a peace accord signed in Arusha, Tanzania in 2000.

 

Rebel forces

The process culminated last week with lawmakers in Burundi's two-chamber legislature electing Pierre Nkurunziza, leader of the former Hutu rebel Forces for Defence of Democracy (FDD), as president.

 

Carolyn McAskie, head of the UN peacekeeping mission in Burundi and commission chair, told the meeting some of the peace plan's recommendations had not been realised but expressed confidence the new government would address them soon.

 

"We are very happy that the new president has included the old priorities with his new priorities," she said.

 

"The work of the committee was not in vain... We can look back on our activities of the last five years and see reasons for hope."

 

"If we abandon [Nkurunziza] because he is now president, he will not succeed. We must stand by him," Bah said.

Mamadou Bah, African Union special representative

Nkurunziza last week said his immediate goals included improving security, fighting impunity, rebuilding the economy, and negotiating with the guerrilla Hutu rebel Forces for National Liberation (FNL), which still attacks the military and civilians in pockets around the country.

 

Nkurunziza is to take office on Friday, ending the mandate of a transitional government created under the Arusha accord.

 

Sharing power

The administration, which split power between the Hutu majority and the long-dominant Tutsi minority, has led the tea- and coffee-producing nation of 7 million since 2001.

 

McAskie and African Union special representative Mamadou Bah urged donors to boost their support for the new government.

 

"If we abandon [Nkurunziza] because he is now president, he will not succeed. We must stand by him," Bah said.

 

The AU's experience in Burundi, its first peacekeeping mission, gave it confidence to try to tackle other problems on the continent, such as in Sudan, AU envoy Bah said.

 

"In the AU, we took the risk of going into Darfur because we succeeded in Burundi," Bah told the meeting.

 

Continued support

 

The commission, led by the United Nations, also included international donors, Burundian signatories to the accord, the AU, regional nations and Burundian civilian representatives.

 

McAskie, speaking to reporters afterwards, said the United Nations was mulling several options to create a body that can advise and support the new government in the same way the old commission did.

 

"You don't just say you have a government, you've held elections, and goodbye," McAskie said. "I'd really like us to use the Burundi experience to say we don't want to do that."

 

In Africa, nearly half of countries coming out of war slip back into it, so Burundi will require some support to go alongside the peacekeeping operation, McAskie said.

 

"The main players will stay engaged," she added.